Shaun Hill has been in this position before.
And that’s exactly why the Rams brought him to St. Louis.
Now that Sam Bradford is lost for the season due to another knee injury, Hill will be the starting quarterback for the Rams when the 2014 regular season begins.
Hill came to St. Louis to be Bradford’s backup, but now he’ll be thrust into a starting role.
“Shaun’s our guy, we have all the confidence in the world in him,” Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said at Sunday’s press conference where he announced that Bradford is out for the season after suffering an ACL tear in his left knee during the team’s preseason game Saturday at Cleveland.
With 12 years of experience in the NFL, Hill has been regarded as one of the league’s top backup QBs. And during the Rams training camp and preseason games to date, Hill has looked right at home.
“Coming to this organization, the transition as a whole has been good,” Hill said from the locker room after a preseason game with the Green Bay Packers. “It’s been a good fit.”
Hill signed a one-year deal with the Rams last March, choosing not to remain with the Detroit Lions.
“I had a lot of reasons,” Hill said of coming to St. Louis. “It’s closer to home for me and I’ve always admired Jeff Fisher. And Frank Cignetti, our quarterbacks coach, I have a background with him, too. So there were many factors for us. We weighed our options and felt like this was the best place for us.”
As he said, Hill is now closer to his home. He lives in Osage Beach on Lake of the Ozarks. Hill has also stated another reason he came to St. Louis is that he feels the Rams are a team on the rise.
Hill’s path to the NFL was much different than Bradford’s.
Hill was a multisport standout at Parsons (Kan.) High School, but did not get much attention from Division I schools. Parsons is a town of about 10,000, similar in size to Washington. After high school, Hill signed with Hutchinson Community College and after two successful seasons, he signed with Maryland, leading the team to a conference title and a berth in the Orange Bowl as a senior.
Despite that success, Hill did not get drafted out of college. He signed with Minnesota as a free agent in 2002. After a stint with the Vikings, Hill became the starter in San Francisco during the 2007 season, replacing Alex Smith. And Hill played well. He had a 300-yard passing game during the 2008 season against the Cowboys. He began the 2009 season as the starter in San Francisco.
Hill later became the backup to Matthew Stafford in Detroit. In 2010, Hill started 10 games for the Lions after Stafford went down with an injury, throwing for 2,686 yards and 16 touchdowns. He did not throw a pass last season. Instead of going back to Detroit for another season, Hill signed a one-year deal with the Rams.
At 34, Hill is the oldest player on the Rams roster. He was brought in as an insurance policy if Bradford would get hurt again. And that’s what happened.
But again, Hill’s been in this exact position before. Hill noted that someone in his position always has to be prepared, physically and mentally.
“I’ve always gone into every week, even as a backup, as if I was going to play,” Hill said. “That’s the only way I knew how to prepare. So to be honest, my mindset is the same as it’s been every week.”
Time and time again, whether in San Francisco or Detroit, Hill has stepped in for an injured starter and played well when called upon. He’s proven he can lead an NFL team.
In 26 career starts, Hill has gone .500 (Bradford is .378 in career starts). Hill has completed 61 percent of his passes during his career, has an 85.9 passer rating and has a 41-to-23 touchdown-interception ratio.
And since arriving in St. Louis, Hill has looked solid in the preseason games.
Wearing No. 14, Hill looked in complete control as he led his new team’s offense against the New Orleans Saints in the preseason opener. Hill connected with both Cory Harkey and Stedman Bailey for touchdowns. He appeared more than capable of leading the team. In the second preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Hill took over for Bradford in the first half and looked completely comfortable in his role. He saw only one series of action against the Browns, as the team didn’t want to see anyone else get hurt.
And if the past is any indication, you can bet Hill will be ready to lead the offense as the starter.
“Obviously I feel terrible for Sam (Bradford),” Hill said. “But, it’s the nature of the business. It’s next guy up and that’s me. There’s a lot of excitement, I’m getting cranked up and ready to go for this one.”
Fisher said he’s confident in Hill’s abilities.
“Shaun has a great feeling for the offense right now, and we’re gonna move forward with him,” Fisher said. “We’re not gonna change anything. He knows the system. He’s very reliable.”
Fisher made one last point.
“This team is going to rally around Shaun Hill.”